Thursday, May 31, 2007

You Say Tomato. . .

OK. The lettuce is out. We've got tons in the fridge which we've been feasting on all week. So now the tomatoes are in. . .

24 plants total counting those we put in containers. And I've got seedlings to spare still. I suspect we planted them a little too close together, but I haven't the discipline yet to plant less. Instead I want to give every seedling its fighting chance for fear I won't have anything to show for it in the end. With experience I suppose I'll develop the ability to put the plants' needs ahead of my own!

Anyway, we tried a technique recommended to us by the Mister's uncle. We stripped each seedling of its lower leaves, then submerged most of the stem in the soil, and rather than pointed downwards, we curved the stem sidewards. The result is a rather short tomato plant.

However, by burying the majority of the stripped stem, you're encouraging roots to sprout from the nodes of the removed leaves. By orienting the stem sidewards the plant is also given a more stable root foundation which should help it later when it's (fingers crossed) laden with plump, juicy, beautiful tomatoes. We shall see. One important thing to remember is which direction you orient your stem. If you find yourself staking the tomatoes later in the season you don't want to wind up puncturing your plant. We oriented them all in the same direction and even staked them now to be doubly sure.

Here's what we planted...

Roma Plum Tomatoes from seeds I saved last year.
Cuor di Bue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. An Italian red that's great for sauces.
Ferris Wheel from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. A pink heirloom with a "fantastic, sweet flavor."
Green Zebra from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. "Sweet with a sharp bite."

As an aside, we used organic soil, then tossed in a few bags of manure/hummus for good measure. The red stuff you're seeing is cayenne. This has proven to be an effective pest deterrent.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

Worth the Wait

I direct-sowed these lupine plants two years ago, and these are my very first blooms. Last year I had quite an impressive display of foliage, but nothing more. I had been wondering if I was going to need to relocate them. However, they came back with such force this spring, that I felt pretty sure that this would be the year.

Visit more gardens. . .

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Backyard Salad

I present to you our first home-grown salad of the season. We can't vouch for the dash of olive oil or squeeze of lemon. But we can take full credit for the greens: mesclun and turnip tops. We're hoping to harvest a few more bowlfuls including some spinach, radicchio and beet greens before we have to make room for the tomatoes. Unfortunately space is our biggest restraint; we're only able to dedicate a mere 2' x 14' bed to this endeavor. Even still, I'll take a few weeks worth of home-grown salad over grass any day.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

It seems a little strange to highlight something I never intended to grow. However, these cropped up all over this week, and I am a bit fascinated by them. Perhaps it's the whole Alice in Wonderland thing. Or that mushrooms are one of the few foods one can still forage for (no worries, you won't find these particular specimens on our dinner table).

Anyway, I suspect we're experiencing a bumper crop of mushrooms because I'm still getting the hang of our soaker hoses. They almost make watering too easy. After turning them on one early morning, it was well into the afternoon before I remembered I had never turned them off. Of course at that point I was in my office, tucked away in a high-rise, a healthy train ride from the spigot in question. If only there was a wily caterpillar I could have called on. Fortunately a neighbor was able to come to the rescue.

Visit more gardens. . .

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shopping Spree

Recently over at A Study in Contrasts, BLACKSWAMP_GIRL posed an interesting question about shopping carts and what they revealed about the shopper. Back from my own expedition, I gave her question some thought. Here's my "cart". . .

This was after a day at Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, NJ with my sister. In addition to herbs, they grow a wide variety of perennials and some annuals, too. As I'm still getting the hang of this gardening thing, I appreciated their highly organized, well-signed gardens where visitors can wander prior to making selections. That was an education in and of itself.

The herbs I purchased probably say very little about me, save that I'm not yet ready to invest in culinary escapades. Though they had an impressive selection of herb varieties, I decided that I'd rather have the basics on hand as those are the herbs I see myself getting the most use out of: basil, rosemary, sage and thyme. There was a no-bolt cilantro that was tempting me, but I resisted as my space is limited. I do see myself someday tracking down more obscure herb varieties with very specific recipes in mind. For now, having herbs that flourish through the season and are always on on the ready are enough for me. As I said, I'm still very new at this!

I am pretty excited about the perennials I purchased: lungwort, pasque flower and sedum. I came wanting to pick up some sedum after having spied some in my neighbors' gardens. I was particularly impressed by its longevity, carrying on into autumn even. The lungwort and pasque flower were totally new to me. I love the lungwort's funky, spotted leaves and shade-friendly flowers. The pasque flower has equally wild foliage, in this case sort of silvery and fern-like, and a great, jagged, cup-shape blossom. If I was a little conservative in my herb selections, I at least feel I made up for it with my perennials.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Seeds Worth Saving

Looks like my plum tomatoes will be back for an encore performance. . .

I'm quite happy to report that thus far the seed-saving experiment is a success. The seeds I collected willy-nilly and the seeds I lovingly soaked and fermented seem to be neck and neck. This is sort of interesting to me because as I understood it, tomato seeds need to ferment in order to ultimately germinate. And it seems as if we've got no problems there, regardless how the seeds were initially handled. In the end, I'm sure it's worth the extra effort to ferment the seeds, if nothing more than as added precaution. Besides, gardeners have always considered extra effort a fair price for the sublime sweetness of a home-grown tomato.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

A Star is Born

This star of Bethlehem plant was given to me 2 years ago by the Mister's aunt. She's an avid gardener and has been kind enough to share her plants with us over the course of our relatively short gardening career. I could never get this one to bloom. Return it did last year, but blossom it did not. This year it was moved to make way for a new oak leaf hydrangea. Well, it seems that made all the difference.

Visit more gardens. . .

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Brussel Sprouts à la Cayenne

Our little veggie patch is in full gear right now. We jammed it full of spinach, turnips, beets, radicchio, mesclun mix and brussel sprouts. The sprouts were started in the greenhouse so they have a leg up on the rest. Still, the others are humming along quite nicely, and I expect we'll be harvesting greens in no time.

This weekend I armed myself with cayenne pepper and gave the veggie patch a good seasoning. Deer aren't the issue in my neck of the "woods." Instead, we battle stray cats. From what I hear, they're not ones for spice. Let's hope it's so. Does anyone else have any suggestions for keeping strays at bay?